The Formula for Effective Feedback

How many of you have suffered when giving others feedback—either because you worry about how it will land or because you have tried in the past to mixed results?

You are not alone.

With this in mind, my formula for effective feedback is below.

For the purposes of clarity within this post, let’s say you have noticed that one of your employees answers the phone in an abrupt/brusque/unprofessional manner.

What to do?

  1. Begin with what’s working.

Starting with what you like about someone’s performance helps them  hear what’s coming next.

In this scenario you might begin, “I appreciate that you pick up the phone so promptly. I know it reassures callers to speak to a person rather than to voice mail.”

  1. Be fact-based and unapologetic about what you have noticed.

This is critical. It can’t be, “Sometimes you…” or “I know you might just be having a bad week but…”

In this scenario, this might sound like “I have been paying attention to how the phone is answered this week and I’ve noticed you often sound rushed/disgruntled.”

  1. Close with “My request is” + exactly what the change would look like.

At this point we often go to an over- or under-compensatory place, saying something along the lines of, “I need you to stop that,” or “Maybe you could soften that up…” and follow that up with….nothing. No specifics.

I would prefer you say, “My request is that you take (at least) one deep breath before answering the phone and then answer by saying, ‘Good morning/afternoon this is X company. Y speaking. How may I help you?’”

While all the steps are important, I have found that step 3 is the most critical.

Why? Because saying “My request is” leaves no wiggle room about a request having been made and being super-specific about what the change looks like keeps you from having to have the same conversation again next week….

With all my best wishes for your future, effective feedback,



For insight into how to offer others feedback in a non-work scenario check out
“How to Wow Like Alicia Keys”